Long-term readers might remember my rants against all these Vista bashers out there. It is time for yet another outburst in this series. It is this sentence that I have read so many times in the last weeks: "Windows 7 is what Vista should have been" that leaves me no other choice.
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A recent Computerworld article gave me a good start. According to research institutions, in particular Gartner, Vista is doing better in businesses than XP had by this time. I have blogged this already a year ago. At that time I contacted Gartner and asked for data about Vista's adoption rate. It turned out that Vista installations (not just sales) were outperforming those of XP after its release. If I could access these data so easily, then any journalist obviously would have had the same possibilities. But bashing Vista was en vogue, and nobody was really interested in such hard facts. Everyone wanted to be a part of the big anti-Vista community. As a journalist, blogger, or the local town crier, you couldn't be wrong if you slapped Vista. The harder you slapped, the more applause you would gain from the bloodthirsty crowds.
Now we are seeing just the opposite reaction. Windows 7 is everyone's darling. Even severe security issues are downplayed by the media. I think this behavior is a phenomenon that should interest every mass psychology researcher.
Most people just tend to parrot what they have heard elsewhere, without thinking for a minute if it really makes sense. The swine flu hysteria is another good example. Everyone was convinced that the world faces a big threat, but now nobody is interested in the topic anymore, even though there are more infected people out there than ever. You can't blame the media alone for this, because they just report what their audience wants to hear. Rest assured that if the swine flu virus could have been spread through the media like the economic downturn hysteria virus, then we would have really had a worldwide pandemic.
At the time of this writing, the sentence "Windows 7 is what Vista should have been" gets 1090 hits and "Windows 7 is what Windows Vista should have been" 5350 in Google. This is not too bad for a complete sentence. It classifies as what Richard Dawkins coined by the word "meme", which is nothing else than a brain virus. Every "good" Windows journalist or blogger has to write this sentence at least once, otherwise the crowds don't accept him or her as an expert in these matters. I have no doubt that these numbers will boost, as soon as Windows 7 is available in the shops and the rest of the mass media start parroting what specialist journalists have discovered already in their thorough investigations.
From a technical point of view, this sentence is just plain nonsense. Of course, Windows 7 is the best operating system that Microsoft has ever produced. This is no wonder, simply because it is their latest OS. However, if you compare the importance of Vista's innovations to those in Windows 7, then you have to admit that Windows 7 is just Windows Vista with a few additional gimmicks. Don't get me wrong – I love most of Windows 7's new gimmick features. Considering that Microsoft only had about two years to get them out, they did a great a job. The same high-paid developers had more than five years for Vista. It is hard to believe that their skills improved in the way that some journalists want to make us believe.
And this other widespread brain infection – that "Microsoft listened" to its customers – certainly can't be the cause either. Of course, they always "listen" because this is the best way to earn their money in the future. I mean, do you really believe that Microsoft can afford to create software that nobody wants to buy? They don't have the luxury of Open Source programmers who can just write software for the applause of their own little community.
Perhaps the only time Microsoft listened, in a more literal sense, was when they radically changed their strategy, as one Internet worm after the other crashed Windows XP. Microsoft more or less stopped their work on Vista and concentrated on SP2 for Windows XP to improve its security. Then they dropped quite a few gimmick features in Vista and focused on rebuilding Windows' security structure. Yes, indeed, Windows Vista was what Windows XP should have been. Vista was Microsoft's first operating system where security mattered more than anything else. Yes, Microsoft really "listened" to all its critics at this time, in a very literal sense. Well, as we all know, it didn't gain them the applause they had hoped for.
With Windows 7, Microsoft returned to their old habits. They give the journalists the gimmicks they can easily understand, so they have something to write about in their positive reviews. I think, if there hadn’t been the Vista bashing hysteria, that Microsoft would not have rebranded Vista and Windows 7 would be just Windows Vista SP3. Perhaps there would be fewer gimmicks in this OS update and instead we would see some solid improvements in UAC. But Microsoft had no time for that, because they needed to get a positive press as soon possible. Thus, from a marketing point of view, Windows 7 really is what Vista should have been.
But the gimmicks are not the only reason for Windows 7's marketing success. The main reason, and this might sound a little contradictory now, is that Vista paved the way for Windows 7. The Vista bashing wave began rolling only because of one reason: compatibility. Restructuring the operating system caused countless software compatibility issues. Of course, this was unavoidable, even though Microsoft did their best to remedy the effects. Time solved this problem, because software vendors sluggishly followed Microsoft. The second compatibility issue was missing device drivers and the high hardware demands that made Vista "incompatible" with most PCs when it was released. This was also unavoidable, because every new operating system had significantly higher hardware demands than its predecessor. It was always like this. The fact that this isn't the case with Windows 7 only proves that it is not a new operating system version, but just a great service pack.
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Therefore, it is not that Microsoft has adapted Windows 7 to the demands of the crowds – it is the environment that has adapted to Vista. So, in this very trivial sense, Windows 7 is what Vista should have been: Windows 7 is Vista! It is just that the journalists are writing now what they should have written two years ago. Hence, they "listened" and just adapted to Vista.
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Thank you. Thank you!
You wrote exactly what i think.
w7 gimmicks are so essential, i hesitate to call them that. these features really improve the whole experiance.
and dont get me started on boot times, w7 is faster and that alone gives it good marks from me.
Right on point.
I can only partially agree. The idea that “Windows 7 is what Vista should have been” is wrong in a literal sense as you point out, but it is correct in a more figurative sense. Microsoft made a number of critical missteps in the development of Vista that cost it a couple years of development time. Had they not made those mistakes, then what was released at the time that Vista was released would be what we’re seeing now with Windows 7.
I disagree. If Windows 7 was released as a successor to Windows XP at the time Windows Vista was released, we’d have had the same problems we did at Vista release.
* High hardware requirements (e.G. netbooks now ship with 1GB of ram, while in 2006, 512MB was still consideres “normal” in an office pc)
* Unprepared application and hardware vendors
These were the biggest issues – Microsoft has made some blunders, like the file copy issue, but which wasn’t as bad as the media put it.
Here are my thoughts;
1) Vista suffered from its system requirements and never shook that.
2) It suffered from many users getting used to UAC for the first time.
3) Early compatibility with drivers etc.
It is obvious to state that IT managers are also users and there own experience affect the workplace.
p.s Linux did not kill or become a dominant os thanks to Vista.
p.p.s. Vista is not more secure than Linux distros.
tom, I also love these gimmicks. It is just that all these Microsoft critics who said the security is more important than user experience have proved to be wrong. Security is important but it only comes second. That’s why Microsoft modified UAC in Windows 7.
Lukas, you just replied to Adam what I would have written. 😉 However, I have to agree with Adam, that Microsoft made critical missteps. If they didn’t strip off some of the planned gimmick features in Vista and released a less secure and therefore more compatible OS, then Vista would have been a marketing success.
moiecoute, I somehow doubt Vista’s release has anything to do with the failure of Linux to dominate the desktop market. The only OS that gained advantage of the Vista bashing campaign was OS X. Linux wouldn’t dominate the desktop market even if Windows didn’t exist.
You are 100% correct and 0% incorrect. I swear I had this post in my head (but I’ve given up blogging). So thanks for writing this. I only wish it’d make it to the top of digg. Kudos!
Thanks, Jarred! I wasn’t aware that the article is on digg. Do you have the URL?
It is not on Digg. But it NEEDS to be.
My comment about Linux was based on the hype that the Linux community built itself. Even as recently as a week ago you could find blogs on linuxtoday and tuxmachines carrying on about how Linux marketshare had risen thanks in part to Vista.
On the flipside my reference to recent comments being made that Vista is more secure than Linux based os’es is as equally stupid but enough said as there are literally hundreds on blogs covering this.
Summary point there are extreme points of view in both directions driven by emotion and misinformation that affects perception of the implementor and prospective users. In my environment I would don’t think I can argue a case for Vista simply because of these perceptions by key stakeholders.
If Windows 7 is Vista made right and people believe that perception and statement then good luck to Microsoft because it helps them.
Couple of comments…
I agree with the hype. It’s really misplaced but it’s all relative to the times. Vista was a poor release and really should have had the SP1 fixes in place before release. There is too much evidence to argue against it. The file copy problems were indeed bad. Maybe not widespread as impressed on the reader but anytime you’re dealing with data transfer and integrity and a certain threshold experiences it, it’s bad and a good warning to others. Yes, we had to deal with it.
As for adoption of Vista in business do not discount those who adopted it and later regretted it. The dept I support is one such entity. It’s been a disaster but as patches come out things have been improving.
To say that the developers only had 2 years to work on Windows 7 seems rather naive. Development doesn’t work like that on these OS’s. Much of it is an evolution and lets not forget that the final release of Vista is not what originally Vista was going to be and that the story is that a few years into it and they wiped it and then started over with the Server 2003 code. I got this firsthand from someone who works at MS…I assume he knows what he’s talking about. The Vista we know evolved from Server 2003 and then had the next few years to become Vista. Windows 7 is an evolution of that.
As for the comment that had Vista had relaxed security it would have been a marketing success…there’s no guarantee of this. OSX was already gaining mindshare before Vista due to the security issues in XP and previous Windows OS’s. MS had identified that and were very embarrassed over Slammer and other worms(according to MS employees) thus the reason for Vista’s security. Relaxed security could have been a bigger disaster for MS.
Don’t get me wrong though as a basher. Vista has been torture but I look at it as a necessary step MS had to make. They simply screwed up long ago in how they treated or rather mistreated security. In some people’s eyes certain things have to get worse before they get better and Vista was an example of that. I think they weathered it pretty well.
BTW, for what it’s worth if it’s true that Windows 7 has a smaller footprint and more optimized than Vista, it will be the first time in the history of Windows OS’s for that to happen. To me that is saying something. WinXP certainly wasn’t over Win2k and Win98 wasn’t over Win95. This kind of excitement explains some of the media hype as it’s not been seen before from MS.
moiecoute, yeah I know that many Linux advocates were quite happy about Vista’s marketing disaster. I believe that in the long run Vista will be a disaster for Linux on the desktop. I mean if Linux wasn’t able to profit from Microsoft’s worst nightmare, when will they ever seriously be competitive? There must be quite a few Linux fans who must be very frustrated now.
Jim, I remember quite well that we had more issues when Windows 2000 came out. Most of the problems were solved only with Windows XP. Vista was a poor release only with regard to compatibility. But as I already outlined in the article, this was unavoidable. I agree that Microsoft had no other choice after all these security problems with XP. Thus they did a great job with Vista because they must have known in advance that there would be a lot of bashing.
As to my naive view. I think you misunderstood this point. Of course, I didn’t claim that Microsoft needed only two years to develop Windows 7. Every Windows version is based on its predecessors. My point was just that they had considerably more time for Windows Vista.
I also disagree with your last point. Windows XP also only was a optimized Windows 2000 and there also was Windows 2000 bashing. It was just not as bad as with Vista because the server version had some important new features. I think the media hype can only be explained by the fact that most journalists only have limited technical knowledge. So they tend to parrot what others have been writing. This way they are always on the safe side. This is also the reason why there often is no controversial discussion about a new Microsoft desktop OS. It is either a total failure or a great success. The main point of my article is that both claims are very unlikely from a technical point of view.